Stanley BillMay 4, 2022
Czesław Miłosz's Faith in the Flesh
Body, Belief, and Human Identity
Oxford University Press 2021
In Czesław Miłosz’s Faith in the Flesh: Body, Belief, and Human Identity (Oxford University Press, 2021), Cambridge professor Stanley Bill offers a profoundly original, fine-grained, and rich interpretation of the poetic œuvre of Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz. The book presents Miłosz’s poetic philosophy of the body as an original defense of religious faith, transcendence, and the value of the human individual against what he viewed as dangerous modern forms of materialism. The Polish poet saw the reductive “biologization” of human life as a root cause of the historical tragedies he had witnessed under Nazi German and Soviet regimes in twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe. Stanley Bill argues that Miłosz’s response was not merely to reconstitute spiritual or ideal forms of human identity, which no longer seemed plausible. Instead, he aimed to revalidate the flesh, elaborating his own non-reductive understandings of the self on the basis of the body's deeper meanings. For Miłosz, the double nature of poetic meaning reflects the fused duality of the human self.
Piotr H. Kosicki is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Catholics on the Barricades (Yale, 2018) and editor, among others, of Political Exile in the Global Twentieth Century (with Wolfram Kaiser).